Jerome Green, Resident Since the early 1960s

"The freeway truly impacted the community. It dispersed families. It was a total division between the north part of Spokane and the south part of Spokane."

Jerome Green has lived in the East Central neighborhood since he was a child, when his family moved to Spokane for a military assignment in the late 1940s. What he remembers best are the parks, particularly Liberty Park, which was then located near Second avenue and Sherman street at the bottom of the hill. He also recalls the thriving businesses in that part of the neighborhood, like Buchanan Chevrolet and a heavy truck dealership. East Central was diverse then, according to Jerome, a vibrant and close-knit community with good schools and decent, affordable housing.

All of that changed after the construction of freeway. First, the I-90 right-of-way cut through Liberty Park, leaving just ruins of its spectacular basalt-rock walkways and staircases on just 2 of the original 28 acres. The man-made lake where children once swam during the hot Spokane summers was buried beneath the new roadway. Businesses where East Central residents once worked and shopped were either demolished for the freeway or slowly wasted away as I-90 funneled customers elsewhere. Worse still, what used to be a unified neighborhood was permanently divided into an area north of the freeway and another south of the freeway. Jerome remembers that "it was like putting a wall across from any family that lived north of the freeway . . . [and those that lived] to the south." As a former employee of the Washington State Department of Transportation, Jerome knows that I-90 could have been re-routed to prevent its devastating impact on the neighborhood.

Still, he also points out that although East Central has a reputation as Spokane's high-crime area, it's really no worse than anywhere else and its rich, diverse history is beginning to attract new residents as the neighborhood slowly recovers from the disruption caused by I-90.

Images

Playfair Racetrack, 1967 (image L87-1.1803A-67 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture).

Playfair Racetrack, 1967 (image L87-1.1803A-67 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture).

Playfair Racetrack drew much of its business from the East Central neighborhood south of the freeway. View File Details Page

1935 - Alderich Motors located at 3310 Sprague Avenue (image L87-1.6790-35 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture).

1935 - Alderich Motors located at 3310 Sprague Avenue (image L87-1.6790-35 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture).

Most of the small businesses on Sprague Avenue depended on customers who lived in the southern part of the East Central neighborhood. View File Details Page

Calvary Baptist Church, 1921 (image L87-1.19998-21 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture)

Calvary Baptist Church, 1921 (image L87-1.19998-21 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture)

Calvary Baptist, established in the last years of the 1890s, was the first traditionally black church in Spokane. It is still one of the pillars of the East Central community. View File Details Page

Bethel Church of the Nazarene, 1930s (image L2004-32.621 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture)

Bethel Church of the Nazarene, 1930s (image L2004-32.621 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture)

Bethel was founded early in the 1910s and is still one of the most active East Central institutions. The church moved into a new building in the 1990s; the original building located on Arthur Street is pictured here. View File Details Page

The wading pool at Liberty Park, 1909 (image L87-1.2210-09 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture)

The wading pool at Liberty Park, 1909 (image L87-1.2210-09 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture)

The wading pool, now buried under the I-90/Trent Avenue interchange, was once a popular place to find relief from the summer heat. View File Details Page

 Liberty Park, looking west from the swamp, undated (image courtesy of the digital collection, Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library)

Liberty Park, looking west from the swamp, undated (image courtesy of the digital collection, Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library)

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Audio

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Cite this Page:

Spokane Regional Health District's Neighborhoods Matter Program, & Frank Oesterheld, “Jerome Green, Resident Since the early 1960s,” Spokane Historical, accessed June 24, 2017, http://spokanehistorical.org/items/show/475.
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